What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 12:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us Tuesdays at noon for What's Cooking, our live online culinary hour with Kim O'Donnel.

A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly known as Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), Kim spends much of her time in front of the stove or with her nose in a cookbook.

For daily dispatches from Kim's kitchen, check out her blog, A Mighty Appetite. You may catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page.

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Kim O'Donnel: Hello, friends. I'm loving this rainy weather. I realized yesterday it was probably the first day this summer we've had a good soak, not just a quick shower. Feels nice. It's cool enough to make soup or a pot of beans. I had a new order from Rancho Gordo and whipped up some black beans, my goodness how tasty. And today feels like a curry day, doesn't it? Tomorrow I turn 41 and I need your help: I've already had a little fiesta over the weekend, cooking for 12, so unsure if I'll be repeating such an elaborate repast in the middle of the week. Should I have Mister MA take me out? What shall we do to ring in my new year? By the way, I'll be offline next week, as I head out to Seattle and get reacquainted with one of my favorite places...so no chat and little if any blog-a-rama. Let's get to things...what's on your mind?

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Virginia: I have about a half-dozen eggplants (I don't know the variety -- they are about 1.5" in diameter and maybe 8" long) that I bought at the farmer's market last Thursday, and I have no idea what to do with them. The last time I cooked eggplant, it had no taste and no one wanted to eat it. Any suggestions? (pref something vegetarian?) Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: So, they're skinny? Try this eggplant curry, dear. It's heavenly.

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Arlington Allison: Kim, back when cherries were at market, I made the cherry almond tea muffins from your blog. Any suggestions for what to do with the almond flour I have left over? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: hey Allison, apples are coming into season, which means you can make this damp apple almond cake that isn't just for Passover. Have a looksee. The only caveat: It calls for 8 eggs. I know, I know...but that's what's needed to get this flour-free cake to rise...

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim,

Just a shout out to say thank you for the no-crab crabcake recipe. I have NEVER liked zucchini -- it has become a family joke to watch me avoid it -- but that recipe turned me around. I even tried another zucchini recipe, from Patricia Wells' new cookbook about veggies, and loved it. So thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: woo hoo! I especially love that it's helped you to expand your repertoire and explore even more recipes. Well done, dear.

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Vienna, Va.: Hi Kim,

I bought a bag of squid ink pasta this weekend on a whim. It's jet-black and very pretty, and I have no idea what sort of sauce would do it justice! (Haven't even tasted it yet.) What would you recommend?

Kim O'Donnel: I've never played with it myself. I'm thinking a clammy sort of broth would be interesting, with lots of garlic and fresh tomato, cilantro or basil. Anyone else with squid-like creations?

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi, I could really use a good recipe for oven-baked "fried" chicken or regular fried chicken that's healthy. The only recipe I have is my mother's, which involves one egg, flour and spices and Crisco vegetable oil for frying. Tastes great, but it's not healthy enough.

Kim O'Donnel: I have a recipe for fried chick, but it too involves flour and spices. Instead of an egg, I soak the chick in buttermilk. I use peanut oil for its high smoking point. Usually, what I'll do is fry on one side, then remove from oil and place in a 400 oven to finish cooking. This reduces time in oil bath. Are you looking for a crust, per se? I wonder if you'd like a corn-flake style baked chicken...

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Arlington, Va.: I too have several eggplants from my own garden that I need to use, but I have non-eggplant eaters in my house. None of us, including me care for curry. Do you have any other ideas on how to use them so that I can possibly get the others to like them as well?

Kim O'Donnel: What about baba ghanouj? You'd roast halved eggplant in 400 oven, then scoop out flesh, puree in food processor, with tahini paste, garlic, lemon, a little olive oil Makes a wonderful smoky dip.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

Many happy returns of the day tomorrow! I don't know what to suggest, but hope you have a great day, nonetheless.

I, too, am looking forward to the cooler fall weather, but am mourning the end of summer berries.

What is your favorite recipe for last-of-the-season raspberries?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks so much. I have a pint of raspberries at the moment myself. Are you looking for a dessert? I've had fun making a baked meringue and decorating with berries...makes for festive sweet...also very partial to berries with vanilla yogurt. Not much of a recipe, I know, but I can't think of a better way to start the day. Ooh...you could make muffins.

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Re: Your birthday dinner: Have Mister MA take you out...have HIM splurge for a fancy albeit quiet little place where the food is great, the atmosphere inviting and the best thing is you don't have to cook OR clean.

Happy B-day, enjoy Seattle and we'll read the blogs when you're back in town.

Kim O'Donnel: In Mister MA's defense, he's a very good cleaner upper...I usually don't have to lift a finger after cooking...but YES, I'll pass on your suggestions...

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Eggplant = ratatouille: Never seen anyone turn down eggplant once it's been saturated in tomato juice and herbs and onion. Plus there's enough other stuff in there that the super-picky people can work around it.

Kim O'Donnel: But of course! I always forget about ratatouille. Good call.

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Bread crumbs: I, too, tried the no-crab zuchinni cakes, and they are great! I used Progresso Italian seasoning bread crumbs but I always wonder about recipes that call for bread crumbs. Should I just take a couple of pieces of bread and run them through the food processor instead? Let them dry on the counter for a few hours first? I need some guidance on working with bread crumbs. Thanks

Kim O'Donnel: Up to you on the bread crumb front. If I've got a stale hunk of bread laying around, I'll grind it up for crumbs and stick in freezer for later. It's a nice thing to have on hand. But don't worry about small details; plain bread crumbs are nice because salt and additives are fewer, but don't fret.

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Louisville, Ky.: Hi Kim,

One of my favorite meals is corn pancakes -- not corn fritters, but pancakes with corn kernels in them. We normally top them with honey, and they are delicious right now with all the sweet summer corn.

My quesiton is this: can you think of anything that would jazz up my basic corn pancakes? Anything spicy is out, but otherwise I'm open to suggestions. I've tried red bell peppers, and they were okay. I may need some spices in the batter -- which spices go with corn?

Thanks so much.

Kim O'Donnel: Sounds tasty, Louisville. What about scallions? Or some chopped fresh parsley or basil? A little curry powder would work -- and that needn't be too spicy.

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Birthday: My daughter's birthday is tomorrow, too! And it's also the first day of her new (first post-college) job, so wish her good luck!

Re zucchini crab cakes -- I didn't try your recipe, but I made some fried zucchini cakes that sound similar, and they have been a big big hit! Shredded zucchini (sprinkle with salt, leave for 10 min, squeeze out water) mixed with egg, flour, herbs, garlic, salt, pan fried and served with Greek yogurt.

Kim O'Donnel: Please say happy birthday to her from me. Yes, you're right, shredded zucchini is wonderfully versatile and lends itself to all kinds of flavor variations. cheers.

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Re: Fried Chicken: I love my mom's version but also realize that although it tastes super good, it's not necessarily good for me. On occasion, I'll do the egg wash then put flour/salt/pepper/paprika in a brown paper sack and shake shake shake it up, fry in good old Crisco and enjoy. That is only on rare occasions.

On every other occasion, use just the egg white to be the glue and in the brown paper sack place crushed corn flakes (I've also used Special K -- really!), finely chopped pecans, salt and pepper. shake shake shake and I fry in a mixture of olive oil and a bit of Enova oil....if you use thin cutlets, they take less time to cook therefore are in the pan (i.e., oil) for a shorter period of time and just have to be healthier for us, right?

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for these chicken-y tidbits, dear.

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Philly, Pa.: My boyfriend and I tried the Jamaican Patty recipe over the weekend which you recommended to someone a week or so ago. It was a lot of fun to make and delicious. The only change we made was to do one pepper instead of two, I was a little worried about how hot two Scotch Bonnet peppers would be. One was just right for me. Thanks for the yummy and different recipe.

On another note, do you have any suggestions for how to doctor up frozen peas? I love them just microwaved and in a bowl with a spoon, but the boyfriend doesn't feel the same way. Any ideas to srpuce it up? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for your kitchen report, Philly. Always like to hear what's happening in your worlds. Frozen peas: I like them with rice and some fresh mint, lemon zest...I also like to have them on hand for pot pie...what else, folks?

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Happy rainy day! I am making a big Indian food feast for 6 tomorrow night. My rice recipe calls for 1 cup rice and 2 cups water. I want to double it but seem to recall that there's a rule about not doubling the liquid amount. Help? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: That sounds like fun. Are you committed to the 2:1 ratio? If not, consider this: for every cup of rice, use 1 1/3 cups water. And YES, you can double amount of liquid. I do it all the time.

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OrganicGal: Hi Kim! I'm having a craving for etouffee. I know I need to start with a roux, add onion/green pepper/celery, but I'm not sure what comes next. I see herbs in some recipes, but not others. Same with tomato, some say use, some say no. How much liquid, and what type? I've got some shrimp from the coast here in N.C., and want to do 'em up right! Thanks for helping out with this!

Kim O'Donnel: I can help, but I need to dig out a recipe I got from New Orleans earlier this summer. Can you e-mail me? kim.odonnel@washingtonpost.com

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Squid ink pasta: The best inky pasta dish I ever had was served with lightly seared scallops atop two sauces: a Mexican crema on one half of the plate and an orange-guajillo on the other half. I begged my boyfriend at the time to persuade his abuelita to part with the recipe for the guajillo sauce -- 5 guajillo peppers (softened in boiling water) 3/4 lb. of roasted, seeded, chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup of orange juice, and a sprinkle of epazote. Blend together and strain if desired. Heavenly!

Kim O'Donnel: the guajillo sauce sounds wonderful. I'm imagining it with all kinds of treats...gracias!

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River City: Oven Fried Chicken Breasts-preheat oven to 400

4 chicken breasts 1 large egg

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon thyme

½ C. flour, breadcrumbs, corn meal 1 teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon black pepper ¼ teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon parmesan

Mix egg and mustard in small bowl. Mix spices with flour.

Dredge chicken in wet, then dry mixes, coating thoroughly.

Bake chicken on cookie sheet 3 minutes, then spray with oil.

Bake 5 minutes, turn and spray. Bake 6 more minutes.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey River, looks like some of the fractions transformed into question marks. Can you help out?

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Florida: Hi, Kim. Thanks to an idea I read in your blog, I made roasted okra this weekend. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the okra was.

Kim O'Donnel: Lovely. I've got extra okra on hand and was thinking of roasting them tonight. Thanks for sharing the okra luv.

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Arlington Allison: The almond cake sounds fantastic!

Happy birthday and enjoy Seattle. Will you be returning to Salumi? I still have fond memories of the finocchiona I had there several years ago.

Kim O'Donnel: There are absolutely no scheduled plans this trip, except to rest and relax, but Salumi may have to worked in. It's too special of a place to pass up.

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Mount Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim!

I was wondering if you or anyone out there might have a good idea about what to do with 20-odd jalapeno peppers. They came in a styrofoam tray in the store, though I only needed a couple when I bought them (for homemade fajitas). Any ideas on what to do with the rest? I'm stumped.

Kim O'Donnel: You can grill them and serve with rice...you can stuff'em and roast...what else?

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Seattle, Wash.: I'm a former D.C. person, moved to Seattle (have been following your chat since it began!). I must say, Seattle is food heaven. If you haven't before, check out the University District Farmer's Market on Saturday morning... amazing. The other neighborhood markets are great too, but this is the best. Also, for some restaurants, I highly recommend Green Leaf in the ID for out of this world Vietnamese and Paseo for fun not-quite-C-uban sandwiches. So much good eating to do -- enjoy!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks. I love the farm market scene in your town and spend much time market hopping with my pals there. First night in town is usually at Serafina, a tradition for the past few years with my friend Leslie; it's our chance to debrief and hang out in this neighborhood nest, nosh on some wonderful Italian food and sip good wine. Can't wait.

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Indian Food and Rice: Hi Kim,

I love your column and chats but just have to disagree on your 1 and 1/3 cup water per cup for rice recommendation for the chatter wanting to cook Indian food. I'm Indian and Indian food works much better when the rice is softer and therefore able to soak up the lovely curry juices. I use the 2 to 1 ratio when doing water to rice, no matter how many cups.

For 2 cups of rice, 3.5 cups of water and 1 tablespoon oil also works. If you want to make it a little more savory, An easy way to make Pulav in the Rice cooker is to add 1 tsp of cumin seed, a pinch of turmeric, paprika, some frozen peas and salt to taste.

Just my two cents.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks. Everyone has a rice recipe that works for them. I shared mine, and am happy to know of yours.

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Oven Fried Chicken: We regularly make this at my house. I don't like eating chicken off the bone, so we slice up breasts into long strips. Soak for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours in buttermilk (or milk with lemon juice added). Then, in separate bowl, mix about 2 cups of panko with copious amounts of spices -- we like white and black pepper, mixed with salt and a bit of oregano and sage added, but you can play around. Red pepper would be good too -- both panko and chicken are so bland that anything you do to season will help. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Roll in spiced panko mixture and arrange on a flat cookie sheet. Bake at 375 or 400 for 10 minutes or so, flipping halfway through. YUM!

Kim O'Donnel: Many thanks for your oven-fried offering!

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Jalepeno poppers: Stuff with garlic goat cheese, dip in a light batter, and deep fry. not healthy but BOY are they good.

Kim O'Donnel: another idea for jalapeno abundance...

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Annandale, Va.: Happy B-day!

Thanks for the wonderful posts and I hope you have fab day just like you!

On the eggplant notes, besides the eggplant parm, you could make a Moroccan eggplant salad with tomatoes if you are like me and don't care for curry much.

2 large firm eggplants

2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 ground cumin

juice of one lemon

2 large ripe red tomatoes chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

pinch cayenne pepper

salt

Directions:

Roast eggplants in a 400 oven until skin puffs up. Let cool, and then peel away the skin, and cut the flesh intp 1/2 inch dice. Put all the ingredients except the lemon juice, and salt into a large skillet, and cook over medium heat. Stir often until eggplant is soft, and cooked through. Most of the liquid sould have evaporated. Cool to room temperature, and season with salt, and lemon juice. Serve.

VegWeb.com

I put a litte olive oil on the pan; and I add parsley at the end.

Kim O'Donnel: This sounds great, Annandale. Much appreciated, as is your birthday wish.

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Frozen peas!: I always have those on hand because they are GREAT in pasta. I particularly like them in cheesy pasta. I just throw petite peas in a little sauce pan of water and bring them to a boil. They're great in pasta with your traditional mac and cheese sauce (I also add in tuna, it's total comfort food) also really good in an alfredo recipe, primvera pasta, you name it. They are ready to throw in the pasta after only a couple minutes, so they're a great, easy way to get some green into my pasta.

Kim O'Donnel: The frozen peas ideas are rolling in...

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Fran: Peas and rice seem to go together so nice! Like in fried rice or Paella-style rice.

Kim O'Donnel: And more...

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Frozen peas: I like to saute frozen peas in butter with garlic, seasoning salt, and smoked paprika. I love the smokey/buttery flavor and goes well with fish.

Kim O'Donnel: Oooh...I like the smoked paprika idea...

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Rockville, Md.: Help!

I'm a member of the younger set in my first apartment, and I'm having my parents over for dinner to thank them for cosigning my lease. I've been cooking since I was yea high, so it's nothing new for me, but I've got two dishes set in stone and need a third and possibly fourth to tie them together. I'm making for my father some homemade spaghetti (is there any other kind?) with an anchovy-olive oil-garlic sauce, and serving some chunky caponata on the side. I want some sort of vegetable or salad to compliment them, and could also go for a cold minestrone or something like that to start out with. Dessert will be courtesy of Trader Joe's, so no worries there.

Any tips for what to feed the best parents ever?

Kim O'Donnel: Zucchini may be nice here...you could saute with pine nuts and add some basil and mint at end...grill it...or make zucchini boats, stuff them and bake til tender...

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South Dakota : Jalapenos: Either stuff with cheese (perhaps shredded chicken, herbs, onion, garlic mixture in there too)and wrap with bacon, skewer and grill

or

Homemade "poppers" again stuffed with cheese, but battered to fry. I make them by the dozens and freeze for later.

If you prefer spicier peppers you don't need to parboil, but they will be a bit firm after cooking. So I usually parboil mine, leave the "caps" on, run a knife lengthwise through the pepper, hollow with the back of a spoon, and if doing a large quantity gloves are a must.

Kim O'Donnel: Ooh. I like the idea of parboiling them then proceeding. Very nice tip, South Dakota.

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Downtown D.C.: Why is it so important to leave the bone in when making chicken breasts?

I was just reading your blog entry for Vietnamese grilled chicken and you said how you trimmed off the skin but left the bone. Does it really make that much of a difference? Should I stop buying boneless skinless chicken breasts now?

Kim O'Donnel: I like the bone in; it has more flavor. Personal preference. Boneless are also more expensive, and so even if I want boneless I usually do it myself at home. But really, this is about you and your taste.

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Oops!: half C. flour, or breadcrumbs, or corn mix, or mixture

half t. pepper

one-fourth t. paprika

Kim O'Donnel: This is for the missing amounts for the oven-fried chicken recipe posted earlier. Thanks!

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The Mister MUST take you out!: But I think it's hard to recommend a restaurant to someone who is a chef. Recently on Ask Tom someone was talking up Blacksalt in Palisades as having done a particularly good job for a birthday dinner. Wherever you go, make sure the mister mentions it's your bday when he gets reservations.

Kim O'Donnel: Hilarious -- and duly noted. You hear that, Mister??

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Rice: Not sure if you all ever do it this way, but I make rice in the oven. My proportions are similar to yours since I don't like the rice really soft. I just toss it all into a covered casserole with some salt and either bake at 350 or nuke it. One less burner on the stove and even I can't manage to burn it this way.

Kim O'Donnel: And yet another way to do the rice thing. Thanks for offering up one more option...this is one of the reasons I love rice.

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Jalapeno peppers: I buy a bunch at a time, cut off the tops and scoop out the seeds, and throw them in a zip lock bag and into the freezer they go. They are always ready to add a little zip to whatever I'm cooking. No thawing necessary -- in fact they are a little easier to chop when they are slightly frozen.

Kim O'Donnel: This is a splendid idea. Thanks much.

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Jambalaya?: Need an opinion: is jambalaya too much of a "wintery" meal to serve this Friday to a couple friends? I have a great recipe for it but always tend to think of casserole-y stuff as fall/winter food.

On the other hand, if I could think up something tasty and relativey fast that would highlight summer vegs (especially tomatoes) that would be ideal.

Just feeling stumped...I'll connect with the cookbook shelf this evening, but thought I'd ask the pros for opinions.

Happy b-day Kim! A great month to celebrate (!)

Kim O'Donnel: It might be, particularly since the temps are supposed to go back to the 90s by Friday. What about a summer veggie braise? You could do lima beans, tomatoes, okra, garlic, onions, herbs...add white wine, lemon zest...serve over rice. OR...if you can find shelled purple hull beans, they are wonderful as a side dish.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Kim,

A couple of weeks ago, I managed to "burn" myself with a jalapeno. I tried a few fixes that I found online; covering with oil, soaking in alcohol. Neither seemed to really work. I have since purchased rubber gloves for future pepper prep. If for some reason I'm going without the gloves and manage to "burn" myself again, do you have a salve suggestion?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Seems like everyone reacts differently to peppers. Sometimes they really burn me, sometimes not, and I've often wondered why as well. I find that after cooking, moisturizing my hands with shea butter seems to help, but I agree, nothing is a true salve.

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Jalapenos: Migas! Scramble somes eggs (or tofu if that's your thing) with chopped onion, jalapeno, tomato, and pieces of corn tortilla. This is my lunch today with refried black beans.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh yes. Que buena idea!

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San Francisco, Calif.: Hi Kim,

Thanks for directing me to the basic meatloaf recipe from your blog. I always get nervous about ad libbing ingredients, but would it be okay to throw in some ketchup and/or Worstershire? Chopped green bell pepper? Or maybe sticking to the basics is my best bet...

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely. the world is your meatloaf, San Francisco. Keep me posted.

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Kim O'Donnel: Looks like it's time to run. Thanks for stopping by and for your ideas and birthday wishes. Before I go, I've got a question: I'm working on some self-publishing projects that may include a holiday recipe workbook, for starters. Interested in learning more? Let me know at this address: writingfood@gmail.com and I'll put you on the mailing list which will keep you in the loop. Please write in subject: Mailing List
In the meantime, come by and visit me at A Mighty Appetite.

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